WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Thirteen military veterans being housed at a Wilmington nursing home will likely have to move, after the nursing home owners declined to renew their contract with the federal government.
The North Chase Rehabilitation and Nursing Center’s contract with Veterans Affairs expired in the spring. The facility was given a six-month extension to comply with minimum pay and benefit requirements for their employees, but there is no indication the nursing home administrators are planning to raise their employees pay and benefits by the Nov. 6 deadline.
Vietnam Veteran Clyde Dick has lived at the North Chase Nursing Center for the last year. The 74-year-old suffers from dementia, and had been living with his son, Mike, and his family in Wilmington until Clyde’s condition got too difficult for them to manage at home. The family worked with the VA to get Clyde into a nearby nursing facility, which the VA pays for in return to Clyde’s service to our country.
“Two weeks ago, the VA called me and said your father has to move. North Chase doesn’t want to comply with renewing their contract and we have to find him a place," Mike explained to WECT. “I haven’t told him yet. Because it will confuse him. He won’t remember it. He’ll keep bringing it up, and then he’ll start stressing and he’s not knowing why he’s stressing. So I haven’t mentioned it to him.”
With his dad just a five-minute drive away from their house, Mike said he and his family would visit Clyde nearly every day before the pandemic. Now, Mike said the VA wants to move his dad to a nursing home in Raeford or Fayetteville until another bed opens up in Wilmington. Mike said that would severely hamper his family’s ability to visit his father.
"Taking him away, my kids won’t be able to see him. It’s a four-hour round trip to visit for 20 minutes [time restricted visit due to COVID-19]. Only during the week. My kids don’t get out of school til 3:30,″ Mike explained.
Companies that contract with the federal government, including the VA, must be in compliance with the Service Contract Act. Federal officials say that law requires companies to pay their employees the prevailing wage, or the average wage paid to similarly employed workers in a specific occupation in a given geographical area.
That wage varies by location, but for nursing home workers in Southeastern North Carolina, it’s roughly $10 an hour. Employees must also be offered a certain number of vacation and sick days in order for the employer to remain in compliance. Instead of paying workers more, we’re told nursing home administrators over North Chase declined to renew their contract with the VA. Now, veterans living at North Chase have to leave.
“From what I gather, it’s $6,000 - $7,000 a month to house one of these residents at the nursing home. And to think [the nursing home administrators] can’t afford...$10 minimum pay? They’re just raking in the money. Not caring about their people," Mike said after hearing that the low pay at his father’s nursing home. "My hope is these nursing homes get into compliance and pay their help what they are worth. They work hard for the money.”
Supervisors at North Chase declined to comment or explain why veterans were having to leave the facility. WECT contacted administrators at Principle Long Time Care out of Kinston, the parent company of North Chase Nursing Center. We reached out repeatedly over several days, but had not received a response at the time of this publication. We will update this story when they respond.
The company owns many nursing homes across the state, and it is not clear if veterans at their other facilities are also being displaced because of problems complying with federal requirements.
“All affected Veterans and their family members have been made aware of North Chase Nursing Center’s decision to not renew its contract with VA. The VA will be moving the Veterans to other nearby community nursing homes by Nov. 6,” a VA spokeswoman said when asked for comment on the situation.